If a senior loved one is having trouble making decisions for themselves, you may have considered becoming their guardian. Senior guardianships can be difficult to understand. Many families don’t know everything the role entails. Here are a few things caregivers should know before seeking guardianship for a senior loved one.
Understanding What It Means to Be a Senior Guardian
- What is a senior guardian?
A senior guardian, also known as an adult guardian, is an adult appointed by the court to care for a senior who is incapacitated. Once a guardian is appointed, the senior becomes their ward. The guardian is responsible for managing the ward’s life and making decisions in their best interest.
The guardian can legally make decisions about:
- Where the ward will live
- How to handle their finances and other assets
- Health care and medical treatments
- End-of-life decisions
- What types of responsibilities does a guardian have?
In addition to making decisions in the ward’s best interest, the guardian is also responsible for the following tasks:
- Making sure they get to their doctors’ appointments
- Helping manage their medications
- Paying their bills
- Who needs a guardian?
A senior can benefit from a guardian if they have an illness, injury, or disability that makes it difficult or impossible to make personal decisions for themselves. A senior may benefit from a guardian if:
- They have trouble making good decisions
- They were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia
- They recently had a stroke or have suffered a brain injury
- When is guardianship granted?
A guardian is appointed if the senior does not have a power of attorney and the court decides that they are incapacitated. The person petitioning for guardianship must provide evidence from a medical professional that the senior is unable to make decisions about their personal affairs.
In the event the older adult doesn’t have someone who can act on their behalf, the court may appoint a professional guardian.
- How do you choose a guardian?
Guardianship should be appointed to someone who plays a significant role in the senior’s life. This person should understand the senior’s needs and be sensitive to their condition.
If more than one person is petitioning for guardianship, the court will appoint the person they feel is best qualified for the role. In most cases, this person is the senior’s spouse or a family member. If neither is feasible, the court will appoint guardianship to a close friend. The final option would be a professional guardian.
- What are the limitations of guardianships?
Guardians can only handle small amounts of money like monthly stipends, Social Security benefits, and veterans’ benefits. If the senior has a significant amount of assets, a conservator is usually required. A conservator, also appointed by the court, handles the ward’s finances.
- What are the cons of guardianship?
Guardianships can be helpful in many instances, but there are a few downsides:
- Guardianship petitions can be expensive due to court costs and other legal fees.
- Seniors don’t always get to choose their guardian; the court may decide who is best suited for the role.
- The court is involved in family decisions.
- How long does a guardianship last?
A guardianship typically lasts until the ward or the guardian dies. The relationship can also be terminated if the guardian resigns, or the senior is no longer incapacitated.
In some cases, the court may remove the guardian if they find it in the best interest of the ward.
Guardianship Is an Important Decision
Becoming a guardian for a senior loved one is an important decision. It restricts a senior’s rights to make certain life decisions.
At Heritage, we always recommend that seniors and their families seek assistance from a professional when it comes to legal matters. An attorney with experience in family law, probate law, or elder law will likely be familiar with adult guardianship. They can help you determine if adult guardianship is a good choice for your family.
Heritage Senior Communities
Heritage Senior Communities offers memory care programs that cater to seniors with special needs, including those who are incapacitated. Contact us today to learn more about our communities or to schedule a private tour.